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Corbeau (Black Vulture)
Corbeaux carting away plague victims


Borrowed from French corbeau (raven)


corbeau (plural corbeaux)

  1. The black vulture, Coragyps atratus.
    • 2011, V. S. Naipaul, A Way in the World, →ISBN:
      The local corbeaux, black, heavy, hunched, hopped about the slopes of rubbish; the children of the shanty town ran between the traffic on the rubbish-strewn highway to get to the dump.
    • 2014, Lawrence Scott, Night Calypso, →ISBN:
      A whale man, if you see a whale. It beach. It taking up the whole of La Tinta. You not see the corbeaux? The Marines say they think it must be dead.
    • 2016, Elizabeth Nunez, Prospero's Daughter, →ISBN, page 317:
      Across the blue sky, a big black bird, a vulture, a corbeau. It swooped down low and landed, its long, ringed legs trembling as it anchored itself on the branch of a thick-trunked tree. Around it, more corbeaux, cemetery gargoyles guarding the dead.
  2. (historical) A man who carts away the dead plague victims.
    • 1972, David Victor Glass & Roger Revelle, Population and social change, page 234:
      By 8 August, it was necessary to conscript beggars to bury the dead because the corbeaux, special bearers of plague-striken corpses, no longer sufficed for the task.
    • 2001, A Social History of the Cloister, →ISBN, page 212:
      The next day she died and her body was removed by the corbeaux (the men who carted away the dead) - an ignominious death like that of Jesus Christ, wrote the annalist.
    • 2012, Marie-Hélène Huet, The Culture of Disaster, →ISBN, page 28:
      By late summer, the magistrates themselves admitted their helplessness. They called in the notorious and dreaded corbeaux—convicts promised a commutation of their sentence in exchange for performing the dangerous task of removing the bodies.
  3. A very dark shade of green, almost black.



From Old French corbeau, from Old French corbel, itself either a diminutive of corp (raven), corf, or from a Late Latin corbellus, corvellus, from Latin corvus (Vulgar Latin variant *corbus), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *ḱorh₂wós.


  • IPA(key): /kɔʁ.bo/
  • (file)


corbeau m (plural corbeaux, feminine corbelle)

  1. raven (bird)
  2. poison-pen letter writer

Further reading[edit]

Middle French[edit]


From Old French corbel.


corbeau m (plural corbeaulx)

  1. crow (bird)


  • French: corbeau